Just five years ago I was a meat-eating, no-cooking fool. The most impressive thing I could muster up in the kitchen was a cheese omelet with toast. My last serious attempt at cooking a meal had resulted in a grease fire that spread to my cabinets above the stove, requiring a fire extinguisher to put it out. I proudly declared myself a non-cook.
When I first became vegetarian, I had a vegetarian boyfriend who cooked, so I was well taken care of, but probably ate far too much junk food when left on my own. His cooking, the fruit cart outside my office, and restaurant food sustained me for about two years.
About a month after we broke up and I moved out, I had an intense craving for a tofu scramble and decided to take a stab at one. How hard could it be? Turned out, not that hard at all! I whipped up a dish that was colorful, flavorful, and frankly, even better than the ones my ex-boyfriend used to make!
My passion for vegan cooking was born.
With two years of cooking under my belt, I still rely heavily on cookbooks and recipes. Luckily, there is no shortage of vegan cookbooks (Barnes & Noble and Borders have enormous veggie cookbook sections that can suck up all your money!) and there are an endless amount of vegan blogs filled with delicious recipes. It was hard to whittle it down to five, but these are my musts.
You really don’t need cookbooks when you have VegWeb. It’s free, and I especially enjoy the reviews of each recipe by users which often offer substitutes and additions. You can search by keyword so if you are sitting there with a bunch of kale you don’t know what to do with, type in kale, and voila, vegan recipes with kale. These are two amazing, healthy, hearty, and easy recipes I have tried recently (both happen to include tempeh which if you haven’t tried, you can buy for about $2 at Trader Joe’s).
2. 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson
This is the most comprehensive collection of vegan recipes out there in book form. It is well organized and so far, the recipes I have tried have been well flavored and easy to follow. If you only had this cookbook, you’d be set. While I have not come close to trying all one thousand of the recipes, some of my faves have included:
- Tastes Like Tuna Sandwiches (a staple!)
- Roasted Potato Salad w/ Chickpeas and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Stir-Fried Sesame Asparagus
- Peanut Butter Cookies
3. The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Much has been said about the content of this book and the impact it has had on people’s lives. Outside of its extensive health information, my favorite parts of this book are the well thought out recipes. Alicia is a real talent in the kitchen! My version of her book is covered in oil splashes and food stains and I think I’ve tried about three-quarters of the recipes. It’s hard to choose favorite recipes but I think the ones you must try are:
- Artichoke Dip (this veganized version will win over any party guest, veggie or not)
- Crispy Peanut Butter Treats w/ Chocolate Chips (kids and adults alike will go ga ga for this relatively healthy sweet fix)
- Azuki Beans with Kabocha Squash (I made this about five times this past winter and it warms your soul!)
- Dandelion Bok Choy Miso Soup (addictive)
4. Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia Simpson
If you like comfort food as much as I do, this is the book for you. Alicia offers over one hundred recipes for every kind of cheesy, gooey, bone-sticking comfort food you can imagine from mac and cheeze, to fried “chicken,” buffalo bites, and she also has a great section of smoothies that will make you smile. My favorite recipe though, a throwback to my pre-veg cooking days, is her spinach omelet. Looks like an egg omelet, is as easy to make as an egg omelet, and even my non-veg brother gobbled one up. I actually add some Daiya cheese and tomato to mine, and it is to die for. I have also tried:
- Teriyaki Rice Bowl
- Tuno Casserole (creamy and cheesy, that’s some serious comfort food)
5. Healthy Happy Life
I read many food blogs but I had to go with this one because it includes one of my most favorite recipes. This is not 100 percent a recipe blog, but on the top of the page you can click on recipes, and it takes you to a handy index where you can choose from entrees, snacks, desserts, kid-friendly, etc. The recipe that knocked my socks off is for vegan lasagna and there is a separate recipe for the ricotta nut “cheese,” which you’ll need in your lasagna. You could just eat that “cheese” with a spoon and you’d be happy, but I’d recommend making the actual lasagna. It includes marinated tofu, greens, and Daiya cheese. And the recipe is offered in two ways, the summary of it and then also a step-by-step photo slideshow. I was a little intimidated by the recipe at first but I powered through and boy did it pay off!
These are just five sources of vegan recipes. Find the book or blog that inspires you, pick a simple recipe, and get cooking!